The Road to WrestleMania continues with an extremely strong Elimination Chamber card. It's highlighted by The Rock's first defense of the WWE Championship since returning in a Royal Rumble rematch with CM Punk.
It's far from the only intriguing match on tap. Alberto Del Rio and Big Show will continue their feud with another title match. There's an Elimination Chamber match for a shot at the World Heavyweight title, and The Shield will take on John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus.
That's a stacked card, especially for what's normally a second-tier PPV. When you factor in that multiple superstars who could join the fray before WrestleMania, including Brock Lesnar and Undertaker, it illustrates there should be a lot of entertaining shows on the horizon.
It starts with Elimination Chamber on Sunday night. Here's a look at all the key information for the event, followed by a preview and some match predictions.
Where: New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, La.
When: Sunday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: Pay-per-view (local cable providers)
Live Stream: WWE.com has PPV for $44.99
The Rock (c) vs. CM Punk – WWE Championship match; no champion's advantage for The Rock
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Big Show – World Heavyweight Championship match
John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus vs. The Shield – Tag team match
Kaitlyn (c) vs. Tamina Snuka – Divas Championship match
Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. The Miz – United States Championship match
Brodus Clay and Tensai vs. Team Rhodes Scholars – Pre-show Tag team match
Main Event Preview and Prediction
The Rock has polarized the WWE Universe. One section of the fanbase is happy the “Great One” is back and the other section doesn't like that a part-time superstar was allowed to end Punk's extended championship reign.
What The Rock continues to prove is his ability to electrify a crowd. From the moment his music hits until he finishes his promo, the vast majority of the fans are on the edge of their seat. He's as charismatic and entertaining as ever.
Why is that important? Because WWE wants a marquee name to headline the WrestleMania card. Somebody who can not only draw the diehard fans, including the ones that prefer Punk, but also a mainstream, casual audience.
Although Punk came a long way in that respect during his run as champion, he's still not on Rocky's level in that area. So while it should be another terrific match between two top superstars, The Rock will walk out of New Orleans with the belt.
The removal of his champion's advantage, which means he can get counted out or disqualified and still lose the title, means there will be some shenanigans. Paul Heyman and his growing list of accomplices will likely try several different tactics to cause a title change.
The Shield will probably try to interfere with plans on attacking Punk for the quick DQ, only to get thwarted by The Rock. Heyman is likely to get involved at some point, as well. But ultimately it's just a way to add some drama to the match when most people are already pretty sure about the outcome.
The Rock will head to WrestleMania as the champion, setting up a rematch with John Cena. Depending on how the other storylines shake out in the coming weeks, Punk could end up in the match, too, making for a huge triple-threat title match.
Prediction: The Rock
What They're Saying
Ryback established himself as a main-event superstar in the second half of last year and is now getting ready to team with John Cena and Sheamus to take on The Shield.
The feud between Alberto Del Rio and Big Show has exceeded expectations, but there's a good chance it will come to an end Sunday night.
Alberto El Patron @VivaDelRio
This time is not about destiny,it's about pride and respect,@wwebigshow doesn't stand a chance this Sunday at #WWECHAMBER in NOLA ADR/WHC2013-2-11 21:48:23
Undercard Match to Watch: Elimination Chamber match
Don't be surprised if this match steals the show. The returns of Mark Henry and Jack Swagger, who have both been built as legitimate threats since coming back, along with the continued presence of surprise Royal Rumble entrant Chris Jericho added some much-needed depth to the title picture.
Longtime main-event star Randy Orton and Team Hell No—Daniel Bryan and Kane—will also be in the chamber. Not only should it be an action-packed match, but there will also be some elite in-ring work for the purists thanks to guys like Bryan and Jericho.
All told, it seems like Jericho and Henry are the top two contenders. Henry's run of dominance since returning has allowed him to pick up right where he left off before getting injured. It will lead to a victory in the chamber.
Prediction: Mark Henry
Which Star Will WWE Bury? Kane
Of all the superstars in the chamber, Kane is the least likely to pick up the win. He's just in the match for the ongoing dynamic between him and Bryan, which will probably lead to the elimination of both during the match.
Since the progress of the tag team division has slowed in recent months, it's only a matter of time before Team Hell No drops the titles and disbands. Bryan and Kane did a good job to invigorate the division, but their reign is running out of steam.
Assuming that does happen and they both go out on their own, Kane will slip down the card. He was struggling to find feuds before getting paired up with Bryan, and the same is going to be true whenever they break up the team.
Star Unaccounted For: Brock Lesnar
Lesnar returned on Raw a couple weeks ago to save Heyman's job, delivering an F-5 to Vince McMahon in the process. But he's not on the Elimination Chamber card, so his appearance was just to make his presence known with WrestleMania around the corner.
The attack on McMahon means another feud with Triple H is likely to begin shortly after Elimination Chamber. They had a good one leading up to SummerSlam last year, and the fact it wouldn't be the top feud for 'Mania shows how star-studded that card will be.
Much like The Rock, there will be some fans that aren't happy Lesnar is taking a WrestleMania spot away from a full-time superstar. His star power wins out for the year's biggest event, though. But first, Elimination Chamber will set the tone.
The other big name missing from the card is Dolph Ziggler. There's a strong chance he will make an impact before night's end, however, even if it's just another false cash-in attempt.